The Berlin TV Tower (German: Fernsehturm) is a television tower in central Berlin, Germany (close to Alexanderplatz in Berlin-Mitte).
The tower was designed by East German architects Fritz Dieter, GÜnter Franke and Werner Ahrendt and constructed by the administration of the German Democratic Republic between 1965 and 1969. Test broadcasts began on 3 October 1969, and the tower was officially inaugurated four days later on the GDR's National Day. The tower was not only meant to transmit television signals, it was meant to be a symbol of Berlin (which it remains today, as it is easily visible throughout the central and some suburban districts of Berlin) and to be one of the most important symbols demonstrating the superiority of a socialist society.
With its height of 368 meters (1,198 ft), it is the tallest structure in Germany, the second tallest structure in the European Union (by half a metre), and is the fourth tallest freestanding structure in Europe. There is a visitor platform and a revolving restaurant in the middle of the sphere. The visitor platform, also called panoramic floor, is at a height of about 203 metres (666 ft) above the ground and visibility can reach 42 kilometres (26 mi) on a clear day. The restaurant TelecafÉ, which rotates once every 30 minutes, is a few metres above the visitors platform at 207 metres (679 ft) (originally it turned once per hour; the speed was later doubled following the tower's late 1990s renovation). Inside the shaft are two lifts that shuttle visitors up to the sphere of the tower within 40 seconds. There is also a Staircase with 986 steps.
Unfortunately, soon after construction of the tower was completed, a design flaw came to light. Do you know what that design flaw is? (Hint: the design flaw came to light.) If you answered "There's an image of a cross on the steel sphere of the tower" then you answered correctly.
When the sun shines on the towers tiled stainless steel dome, the reflection usually appears in the form of a giant cross, an effect not anticipated by the architects or the government. Reaction from the public was swift. Many thought the cross was a sign from god indicating that better times lay ahead for Berlin. Many others created the popular joke that the cross was the "Pope's Revenge" on the secular socialist State for having removed crucifixes from churches. The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) was not amused and didn't appreciate the public reaction. The SED tried to remedy the flaw by changing some of the steel plates of the dome, painting the dome, treating the dome with chemicals, but nothing worked. The cross kept reappearing. The flaw frustrated the SED so much that serious consideration was given to tearing the tower down. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the tower remained standing.
Reference to the "Pope's Revenge" was made by President Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987 when he delivered his "Tear Down This Wall" speech in West Berlin. President Reagan said:
"Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexanderplatz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower's one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere--that sphere that towers over all Berlin--the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed."
The Berlin TV Tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of Germany and is among the best known sights in Berlin. The tower attracts approximately a million visitors a year.